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Finally some good news in the ongoing pursuit to lose more fat. According to a recent study by the Technical University of Munich, the amount of brown fat in humans is three times greater than previously believed. So why is this good news in the fight against unwanted fat? Because brown body fat is a fat burning, heat producing fat that makes people leaner, and the more brown body fat you have the leaner you could potentially get.
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Compared to the less desirable white fat, brown body fat burns through energy at a much higher rate. Up until now now the amount people had of this type of fat was thought to be minimal. This new study sheds new light on just how much of this fat-burning, fat humans actually possess, and the larger amount is welcome news to those striving for a leaner physique. So what exactly is brown body fat and how is it different than white fat?
Basically, there are two types of fat. The first is white adipose tissue, which is used for energy storage and broken down for ATP creation. It is also the stuff we want to get rid off. Brown fat is its metabolically active cousin, it regulates body heat via uncoupling. It’s called “brown” because it has mitochondria and an actual blood supply. Sadly, we start to lose this good fat as we get older. Babies and hibernating mammals carry a lot to help regulate their body’s temperature. It was always thought that once we reach adulthood, the white/brown fat ratio is set and not much can be done. This may not be true as there is research coming out that certain components might influence a transition from white to brown by creating “beige fat.”
We know that exercising is helpful with the above, along with certain stimulants (mostly beta 2 antagonists). Those, however, come with some side effects as they affect blood pressure and heart rate negatively. Recently, there have been some findings that show some interesting pathways to stimulate the transition from white to brown fat without sever side effects. Exposure to cold temperatures: Since brown fat is used to regulate the core temperature of the body it makes sense that the exposure to colder environments would increase the caloric expenditure altogether as well as increase the production of brown fat.
The thermogenic effects of brown fat can be activated in several ways, in hibernating animals and babies, the trigger is cold temperatures. Cold temperatures trigger a release of norepinephrine into the blood stream, an adrenergic hormone which has several important roles, one of which is to activate brown fat via the beta-3 adrenergic receptor (β3 adrenoreceptor).
A study from Japan, where researchers asked 12 young men with lower than average amounts of active brown fat to sit in a 63 degree F room for two hours a day for six weeks. At first, the study participants burned an average of 108 extra calories in the cold compared with more normal indoor temperatures. After six weeks, however, their bodies were burning an extra 289 calories in the cold, and PET-CT scans indicated that their beige fat activity had indeed increased. Now, it is not only calories burned but the overall increase in metabolic rate which makes brown fat so interesting. Cold showers, ice baths etc could all be good addition to your fat loss program.
It isn’t news that appropriat exercise will keep you on track for a lean body. That said, it also triggers norepinepehrine release and thereby fat oxidization and its benefits go further since it leads to protein breakdown.
One of the products of amino acid breakdown in muscle tissue is β-aminoisobutyric acid (BAIBA), arising from the degradation of the amino acids thymine and valine. BAIBA is believed to act as a messenger signalling molecule, released into the blood stream by exercise, that helps the body respond to demands for more energy by increasing β-oxidation of fatty acids. It’s also recently been discovered that BAIBA can induce white adipose tissue (WAT) to express brown fat-specific genes – including the all-important thermogenic UCP1. Therefore, supplementing with BAIBA could have positive effects in regards to turning white into beige fat. As a note of caution: the studies I found were conducted on sedentary people but it stands to reason that there is a benefit from adding it to your stack. Think 500-750 mg per day.
Anyone who has ever taking in a breath mint knows of the chilling sensation that you experiencing. Menthol is an agonist of the TRPM8 receptor, also known as the cold and menthol receptor. Therefore menthol intake triggers thermogenesis in brown fat by mimicking long-term cold exposure.
Inorganic nitrates which are found in leafy greens. it has long been known that leafy greens are helpful in reducing blood pressure, along with anti- obesity and anti-diabetic properties. One study I found shows that inorganic nitrates cause increased buildup of brown fat, higher fatty acid oxidization amongst white fat and a higher oxygen uptake. One spin here would be to make beet juice part of your pre/intra workout drink. Beet juice contains large amounts of inorganic nitrates along with some sugars, therefore it will give a nice pump during the workout and help with transition from white to brown fat.
Overall, these are very exiting developments as we learn new pathways for fat loss outside the well known stimulant route. Research will come up with new components to further advance the process.